Friday, April 28, 2006

Jose, Can You See?

All kinds of jingoistic fur has been flying ever since British music producer Adam Kidron released a Spanish-language version of the U.S. national anthem called "Nuestro Himno" (Spanish for "Our Anthem").

At a Rose Garden press conference today, President Bush weighed in on the issue. "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," he said, "and I think people who want to be a citizen [sic] of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English." A bit repetitive, but nothing too mind-blowing there. There's a cretain undeniable logic to what the President's saying about English.

My problem is that everyone embroiled in this silly debate is missing the larger point. The national anthem ought not be sung at all, in any language. It's an unbelievably atrocious song that strains the vocal chords of even our finest singers. How can we feel good about our country after listening to a crowd try to make it through the "rockets' red glare" section in semi-unison? And wasn't the War of 1812 something of a draw? Who gets fired up about that?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should write a new national anthem. Francis Scott Key's poem, set to the tune of an old British drinking song (and hey, at hockey games at least, isn't the anthem still a drinking song?), is miles better than anything today's poets would be able to come up with. For example, name the best poem written for a presidential inauguration in the past 30 years. I rest my case.

Instead, we need to appropriate another song that's easier on the ears and doesn't require training at Julliard to sing. How about "America the Beautiful"? Or better yet, "We are the Champions".
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